Syrian rebels have blasted the Russian proposal for securing their country’s chemical weapons, saying that Bashar Assad’s government should instead be made to face an international court for last month’s attack near Damascus.
The top rebel commander, Gen. Salim Idris, says regime officials should be referred to the International Criminal Court for the alleged August 21 chemical attack near the Syrian capital that the US said killed over 1,400.
Idris, speaking for the Free Syrian Army, said “chemical weapons were the tool of the crime” in the attack in Ghouta suburb. He said that the FSA “categorically rejects the Russian initiative.”
Idris’s statement was broadcast on Thursday on pan-Arab satellite channels, hours ahead of talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the Russian proposal.
The statement comes a day after key international players moved to try to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and to get the government and opposition to sit for peace talks.
The five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, who have been deeply divided over Syria, met late Wednesday to discuss what to include in a new resolution requiring that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile be secured and dismantled. They later left Russia’s UN mission without commenting.
At the same time, Kerry and Lavrov were heading to Geneva with teams of experts for broader-ranging talks about the nuts and bolts of putting Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and destroying them, diplomats said.
The diplomatic flurry follows the threat of US strikes against the Assad regime and a surprise offer from Kerry that Syria could avert US military action by turning over “every single bit of his chemical weapons” to international control within a week. Russia, Syria’s most important ally, and Assad’s government quickly agreed on the broad proposal, but details still need to be worked out.